Now we come to one of the sadder chapters of our family history, the story of June’s missing brother. That is to say, he wasn’t literally ‘missing’ – he didn’t go off hiking one day and never come back, or anything like that – but he was deliberately expelled from the family for conduct that has never been specified, and there was no remotest possibility of forgiveness or reconciliation for the rest of his life.
William Edward Frank Baker (Teddy) was born at 112 Tenison Road, Cambridge, on 26 March 1922, the first child of Frank – then a cinema manager – and Edith (nee Mullinger). There is a photo of him as a small child, certainly less than two years old, and then a gap in the record until he joins Lindisfarne College, Westcliff-on-Sea, in January 1934 at the age of 11.
I have a full set of school reports, which seem to suggest that he was ill during his first summer term and missed quite a lot of school, after which he struggled to catch up. His strengths were maths, ‘handwork’ (presumably carpentry) and, unexpectedly, French – although he clearly enjoyed larking about and was not particularly serious about his work. As far as his conduct goes, his headmaster – one Edward Daws – repeatedly refers to him as a pleasant and good-natured boy; not academic, perhaps, but practical and straightforward, and one who should do well in later life.
Of course, you have all worked out already what’s coming young Teddy’s way; he was born in 1922, and would therefore have been 17 at the start of the Second World War. In 1939 he was living with his parents at the Victoria Hotel in Wolverton (‘The New Queen Victoria’), and was described as an ‘Assistant Hotel Manager’. His father was the manager. Teddy’s parents, two sisters and his baby brother (June, Pauline and Peter) all lived there as well; so did his maternal grandfather William and his mother’s sister Nell – plus a barmaid, the barmaid’s child, and another couple who were probably lodgers. This is a household of ten people, and although the building is quite large it was operating as a hotel and may also have had letting bedrooms – which would have been more than enough to keep the family busy cooking, cleaning and otherwise catering for themselves and their guests.
Details of Teddy’s wartime career are not available at the moment; the MoD will not release them without the consent of the next of kin until 25 years after the individual’s death. He was in the RAF, he was not a pilot, and he served in the Far East; that’s all I know.
In 1943, Frank and Edith inserted a notice in one of the Southend newspapers (not yet identified):
BAKER: Of age on March 26th 1943, William Edward Frank (RAF) eldest son of Mr and Mrs Frank Baker, late of Strand Cinema and Mascot Cinema. Now of Tower Arms Hotel, Iver, Bucks. [2739A]
And then there is silence. We have Teddy’s own word (in a letter to Alec Atkins after Edith had died) that he ‘lost contact with his family in the 1950s’. June’s only comments about this ever were ‘he was a tyrant’ and ‘he broke his mother’s heart’. Alec went to considerable lengths to track him down via the secretary of the RAFA at Uxbridge in 1987, because Teddy had been left a small legacy in Edith’s will. Teddy decline to benefit, and asked that the money should be sent to the World Wildlife Fund instead. Alec was quite brusque, saying that he didn’t know why Teddy had remained apart from his family and he didn’t want to know, and there the correspondence ended.
In late 2003, June was contacted by an heir hunter in connection with Teddy’s own estate; Teddy had apparently died in early 2001 – about six months before Alec, as it happens – and there was a small sum of money to be distributed between his heirs. As Pauline had also died by then, and had no children, June and Peter shared the legacy between them; June was reluctant to accept the money, but recognised that it would enable her to help her grandson, Robin, so put most of it into an account for him.
And now there’s nobody left to explain how and why a family member was so effectively shut out that his death wasn’t known about until more than two years after the event. Nothing about Teddy’s school reports indicates a ‘tyrant’ in his youth; he was never in trouble with the police as far as I know, but until I can access his service record it’s impossible to know what may have happened to him during the war. My best guess at the moment is PTSD, which changed his behaviour, or possibly some involvement in the infamous RAF mutiny of 1946. Or, indeed, both.
Teddy never married, nor had children, and the rest of his life is a mystery. He may have worked for the RAF in a civilian capacity, as I received the garbled impression that he was a steward in the Mess at RAF Hendon, but unless I can make contact with someone who knew him towards the end of his life this is unlikely ever to be resolved.
I’ve applied for Teddy’s death certificate in case it sheds any more light on the subject, but at the time of posting this it still hasn’t arrived. I’ll update if there is anything of interest to report when it does get here.
Anyway, Teddy was a perfect example of the way the family as a whole tended to deal with problems – i.e. ignore them, and the people who create them, and simply make them go away. There was a similar case in the 1980s when they tried to magic away someone who did not fit their template for an ideal human being – but somehow or another, and to their eternal chagrin, I’m still here, and I’m the one who gets to tell the story.
I’m really sorry, Teddy, I wish I’d known you; I think we’d have had quite a lot in common!